EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Effects of pedon-scale soil heterogeneity on soil temperature and surface energy fluxes - Does it matter?

Melanie A. Thurner1, Xavier Rodriguez-Lloveras1, and Christian Beer1,2
Melanie A. Thurner et al.
  • 1Universität Hamburg, Institute of Soil Science, Dynamics of Soil Processes, Hamburg, Germany (
  • 2Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability

Soil texture, i.e. its composition of clay, silt and sand, as well as organic material, is often very heterogeneous within small distances. State-of the-art land-surface models usually cannot capture this due to their coarse grid. However, neglecting small-scale soil heterogeneity may affect the estimated exchange of energy, water, and carbon between land and atmosphere strongly.

This discrepancy is especially problematic when modelling permafrost soils, where the heterogeneity-induced mismatch can make the difference between frozen and unfrozen soil, as well as waterlogged and unsaturated soil, as soil texture determines physical properties such as heat and water-storage capacity. By that, soil heterogeneity affects the build of soil ice and resulting frost heave, determines pond locations, and ultimately influences soil genesis, e.g. by inducing cryoturbation. The determination of soil geophysics also propagates into biogeochemical dynamics, affecting the arctic carbon cycle by providing the environment for either carbon stabilization or degradation.


To assess the effect of soil heterogeneity in detail, and quantify the potential mismatch, we develop a two-dimensional geophysical soil model with a spatial resolution of less than 10 cm at the region of interest. We apply our model at permafrost sites, because our ultimate aim is to understand cryoturbation as a permafrost-specific soil process and its relevance for the arctic carbon cycle, which will finally allow us to improve predictions of the Arctic carbon budget.

Here we present our first results, where we study the effect of fine-scale soil heterogeneity on soil temperature, water, and implications for the simulated sensible and latent heat fluxes between soil and atmosphere. By comparing simulations with and without soil texture heterogeneity, as well as with and without lateral fluxes of heat, we are able to quantify the effect of soil heterogeneity at small scale and discuss the effect on larger scales.

How to cite: Thurner, M. A., Rodriguez-Lloveras, X., and Beer, C.: Effects of pedon-scale soil heterogeneity on soil temperature and surface energy fluxes - Does it matter?, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-7089,, 2023.